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Victorian Caponier 1, Drop Redoubt Fortress, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, UK

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This view of Caponier 1 (alt. Caponnier 1) was taken from the bottom of the moat (ie "ground level" is at the top of the caponier) surrounding the hidden Napoleonic Drop Redoubt on January 5th, 2011. The access Engineers Tunnel (alt. Commandos Tunnel or South Entrance) is out-of-shot a few yards to the left. The redoubt contains the ruins of a Roman Pharos (lighthouse, or watchtower) known as the Bredenstone.

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Comments (2)

John Latter on October 4, 2012

The Drop Redoubt is a 5-sided polygonal fortress embedded into the Western Heights above the town of Dover, England.

The basic structure, with sides between 70 and 100 yards long, was completed by the end of the Napoleonic Wars and then 4 caponiers were added in Victorian times (see the next 'Comment').

A caponier is a two-storey chamber extending into the moat (or "ditch") as shown above. Instead of a floor, there is a slate balcony running around the inside of the upper storey.

On the ground floor of Caponier 1's right-hand side are two square openings, one of which has been converted into a doorway, that were originally designed for carronades: "a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland".

The carronades gave covering fire along the moat leading to the non-caponier corner of the polygon as shown in Caponier No.1 (East), Drop Redoubt. The Bridge Entrance to the Drop Redoubt lies part-way along this section of moat.

On the far side of Caponier 1, another section of moat leads to Caponier 2.

Around the top of all of the caponiers are small round holes that allow smoke to escape.

Imaging software with a "fill with light" function will reveal all the of the detail in the photo's shadowed areas.

A Dover History photo.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on October 4, 2012

Drop Redoubt Standard Information

Click to see all photos of the Drop Redoubt, including an Annotated Satellite Map.

This is an English Heritage site. Abridged extracts from English Heritage's Pastscape entry for the Bredenstone and Drop Redoubt are as follows:

A Roman Pharos was situated on the Western Heights at Dover and was known as Bredenstone and Caesar's Altar in the 16th and 17th century and Devil's Drop in the 18th century. The latter name is perpetuated in "Drop Redoubt" the structure built on the site of the lighthouse.

The site of the lighthouse, one of a pair constructed around the 1st century AD on the headlands flanking the Roman port of Dubris, is marked by two fragments of flint walling, each a metre square, the flints bonded with pink Roman cement. They are not in situ but rest on a concrete slab contained by railings and were apparently moved to their present site in 1850.

The Drop Redoubt formed the westernmost component of the Dover Western Heights Fortress, a series of fortifications situated upon the escarpment west of Dover, overlooking and protecting both the town and the harbour primarily from a landward attack but also from seaward bombardment.

Built in the early years of the 19th century, the Drop Redoubt was the only free-standing work completed on the Western Heights by the end of the Napoleonic Wars and it remained garrisoned thereafter. The redoubt comprised a massive rampart with external ditch (moat), the latter connected to defensive lines (moats) running west towards the Citadel and south to the cliff. There was provision for 14 artillery pieces and access was over a bridge across the south side of the ditch.

With renewed threat from France in the 1860s, plans were drawn for revision of the Western Heights Fortress. At the Drop Redoubt these included the provision of four caponiers in the ditch (see the Caponier No. 4 photo as an example), improved accommodation for officers and soldiers in the fort and new rifled breech-loading artillery as the main armament.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Drop Redoubt declined as an effective artillery defence and was utilised principally as barrack accommodation, probably until the end of the First World War. Thereafter it was used intermittently, notably in the Second World War when an artillery observation post was established there.

The Drop Redoubt was surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England as part of the Dover Western Heights Survey project, between 1998 and 2000.

(1) Dover's Napoleonic and Victorian 'Forgotten Fortress' on the Western Heights also includes the Grand Shaft, North Centre Bastion, North Entrance, North Military Road, Outer Bastion, Pre-Napoleonic Earthworks, St Martins Battery, and The 64 Steps.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on October 4, 2012
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/01/05 11:16:06
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/160)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash